Paxton vs Skaggs
and a bit of sabermetrics in the blog-o-sphere


It pains Dr. D to see saber pieces that are wealthy in mathematics, but poverty-stricken in logic and common sense.  When diverse views pain Dr. D, his reaction is not to call for firings and safe spaces, is not to take a mental health day off work.  His reaction is to express ideas that he sees as the refutation.  Thusly:

This article, "Nobody has ever made the playoffs with a rotation as bad as the Mariners," you knew before you clicked on it that the logical construction would be dubious.  This turns out to be the case.  In a midpoint statement and in the final paragraph, it's clear that the title was not overstating the author's reservations:


Their starting rotation has been terrible, injured, and one of the worst units in baseball, yet Seattle remains in the playoff hunt. Is there any precedent for a team like this being a playoff team? As you can surmise from the title of this article, the short answer is no.

Looking at what has happened helps us gauge what is likely to transpire in the future. Like the birth of a star, however, sometimes we are lucky enough to glimpse something entirely new as it bursts into existence. The Mariners will have to surpass precedents as old as professional baseball itself.


The comments back the author to the hilt -- "Yeah, what a joke that we're even talking about a playoff spot with four horrible starters."  That's their right to get this all wrong, as it is Dr. D's right to reply.



1.  Note the weasel words "Looking at the past HELPS us gauge what is LIKELY to transpire in the future."  Then we proceed straight to the dogma, do not pass Go, do not collect $200 ... as if we had not just stipulated a devastating flaw in our own concluding statement.

To a sabe, dogma is as easy as merely checking the 2016 records.  Then go ahead and dogma the 2017 future, at least in terms of "that's the best info we had at the time."  Sabes forget that stats are backwards-looking and they genuinely, truly over-estimate the value of past performance.  

That's not a quibble.  It's huge.  Past performance is --- > almost the OPPOSITE of what Pete Carroll is looking at in training camp right now.  Same with Jerry Dipoto, to a lesser extent.  Gallardo being yanked after 4.1 didn't have a lot to do with his past records.  Decisions on the August-September rotation and bullpen will have very little to do with past records!

Past performance has value.  What it does not do, is entitle a sabe to regard himself a scientist performing repeatable double-blind experiments and forecasting a hammer falling to the ground under the laws of gravity.  Jerry Dipoto and 29 other GM's are clear on this; sabes are not clear on this.  They work with (past) stats and they figure these past records are 99% of baseball wisdom.  

Players' performances are in constant flux!  USE past records.  As PART of a path to insight.


2.  You are comparing a 110-game team to a bunch of 162-game teams.

If you went back in 2027 and looked at those 400 teams with their finishing ERA's, but checked these 400 teams' stats at game #110's in their seasons ... you would find many, MANY teams that had rotation troubles in July but came up with solutions in August or September.

If the 2017 M's make the playoffs and do well, they WILL HAVE THEN --- > gotten Felix going, maybe Marco going ... removing them from this "outlier" status.  And then some future sabe, 50 years from now, will see the 2017 Mariners as one of those "teams with respectable FIP's" that some 2067 baseball team is not measuring up to.

It is possible AND LIKELY that the 2017 M's will have better rotation statistics at the end of the season -- and that's who the article compares us to, teams at the end of their seasons.


3.  (Less important) That #5 playoff spot is critical and is not "as old as professional baseball itself."

There is no shame in winning the World Series (or Super Bowl) from a Wild Card slot.  You can't even name the Super Bowl winners who got there from the WC.  (Help me out here if you DO know all the teams who made the WS, who won their pennants, from a Wild Card slot.  Would like to review the list.)

If that argument WERE true, that 125 years of playoff teams had better #2-5 starters than us ... this is the 21st century and there are 10 playoff teams now.  Not two.  We don't have to catch the Yankees, the way the 1967 Red Sox would've had to.


4.  You can measure team pitching in lots of ways.  The Mariners' team ERA+ is 96 and getting better.  Is that honestly our impression, that "no team like this" (96 ERA+) has ever made the playoffs?


5.  We've gone through 30+ pitchers.  Even if 125 years of playoff teams had pitchers better than Christian Bergman, they might not have had pitchers better than Zeus, Marco, and Erasmo.


6.  etc etc.


We agree, of course, the M's have some work to do on their rotation.  If that had been the point, no worries no hurries mate.  The M's strengths are battling against their #2-5 SP's, yes.  If that had been the point, it would have been true.

But!?  "No team like this ever made the playoffs" ?!  Not accurate --and also not DIRECTIONALLY accurate.  No snark intended, it is the kind of position you take if you've got a stats database but haven't been watching baseball long. That, or not paying much attention to the macro game. 

Lots of baseball teams have one good pitcher and overcome the situation.  It's as normal as NFL teams doing well without much of a pash rush, or NBA teams doing well without rebounding.

Except for that, good stuff, amigo.  Your friend, Jeff



Earlier today we talked about the 1995 M's going 27-3 in Unit starts, and about -10 games under .500 in every other game.  This year?  The M's are 13-6 in Paxton's starts, -4 under .500 in other starts; as you know +7 of those wins have come in Paxton's last 7 starts.  Paxton has about 10 starts left and we all assume* they must go 8-2 in Zeus' starts.

For me, a big part of the goal is preparing Zeus psychologically for a play-in game, and the games beyond it.  Tonight's big faceoff against the Angels could be part of that.  Hey, the pitcher holds the ball.  Even if the Yankees are up there glaring ferociously and are in fact concentrating very well, the fact remains that Paxton can throw a 97 fastball on their hands, can throw a foshball to break below the knees.  We SSI Denizens want to see signs that Paxton is grokking his own ability to defeat the very best hitters.



Several cool tweets today.  Vieira maybe up Sept 1, Bach on fire, cool nicknames on M's weekend uniforms.


Dr D



No team with a rotation as bad as the Mariners has ever made the post-season? What [obvious nonsense.]

OK, for my take, we were rattling off playoff teams with one ace and the rest mushballers...but one of the reasons teams that made the playoffs with bad rotations don't appear on this guy's list is that the one ace had better numbers than Paxton. Which is in flux. Paxton's numbers suffer from injury and a bout of mechanical problems associated with his recovery from injury. The Paxton we have now can match RJ for dominance, quite possibly, but his WAR doesn't look that scary yet. Another of the reasons is that, in the past, teams in the hunt contracted down to four starters to scramble their way through a bad rotation and get the awesome starter and their (presumably better) relievers more innings.

And of course, Doc is right that the WC play-in game is a new thing, and that this team's final pitching line may well be very different than it's current line. Already they've replaced a wibble-wobble board of Bergmans, Gaviglios, and DeJongs with Erasmo Ramirez and Marco Gonzales. The book isn't out on how those two will fare.

Our pitching is a serious problem. But Dipoto never stops working...I think it will get better.

Arne's picture

Yes-remember Wolcott starting game 1 of the '95 ALCS after playing very few games that regular season.


And thanks for the backup :- )

Pursuing your observation here ... Paxton has what, 10+ K's with 2+ BB's and 0.6 homers?  How did the Rijo and Brown teams have better aces generally - they were a bunch of Unit or Pedro teams?  Or Zeus' 100 IP haven't affected the team ERA+ like Mathewson's did?  Or can you elaborate a bit ...



...Some is inconsistency on Paxton's part. His overall numbers are great, but what actually impacts the outcome is EEA...His being 2.70 as opposed to 2.25 or somesuch. You pointed out that the teams was 6-6 in Paxton starts before the recent seven game run...That isn't exactly 27-3


and as we know, going to need to be more like 7-0 than 6-6 from here out, if the M's are going to really threaten.  Maybe that actual ERA will be in your 1.99 range the rest of the way, putting the team stats more in line as well as the M's fortunes :- )


The Royals tried to contend by picking up rotation help...and Cahill just went down with a shoulder impingement. Wah-waaahhh.

I think they're going to disappear.

The competition will be the Rays, Angels and maybe Twins


anchoring a rotation is, in the sport of baseball, far more leverage-able for wins than having a Mike Trout-type transcendental talent holding down the lineup.

Wins are wins in the regular season, but in the playoffs...I'll take that 7 WAR SP over the 9 WAR hitter every time.


Too bad, so sad.  Not saying it's impossible for them to charge forward and make some noise, but they've been at least 1-2 pieces short (mostly in the rotation, which we thought we'd have addressed with bounce-back candidate Iwakuma and addition Smyly) since the season started.  Offense is very, very good; bullpen is good; rotation has been a problem since last offseason.

Who knows?  Maybe Zeus isn't that badly injured and they were just being cautious.  A pectoral 'strain' is significantly less concerning than a pectoral 'tear,' which can be one of the hardest muscles to effectively rehab in my understanding.


Re: "pectoral strain"

Why, WHY, WHY!!! Why didn't Zunino call a mound visit immediately after the FIRST pitch Paxton winced? Of failing that, the second. They let him throw two more pitches after it was clear something was wrong. It was obvious from the replayed front view of his last three pitches. Something was wrong. Might have shaved some time off any DL stint.


him pitch.  I'd attended his home debut at Safeco, which was an electric night full of memorable moments, and thought I'd take her up so she could bask in the glow of his dominance.

We got settled in, paid way too much for parking and even more for food, walked around the ballpark getting amped up for the occasion, and then...that's the game where he got the 'strained forearm' early on and had to exit.  I didn't even hesitate, looking at my sister and saying, "Let's get out of here."  I didn't exactly feel sick to my stomach; it was more like I had just watched the very best thing on the team evaporate before my eyes and I really didn't have any interest in watching the pick-up-the-pieces aftermath.  Hard to describe my emotional was intense, that's for sure, but it wasn't adjacent to disgust.  It was colder than that, which is how I process Zeus' injury news: coldly.


My knowledge of Canadians is pretty limited.

Michael Saunders. Erik Bedard. James Paxton.

From what I know now they seem like a very fragile people.

And then you watch hockey and get a completely different impression..


Light a candle for the Mariners' playoff hopes...he will get an MRI today to see how bad it is, but he said it just felt like a cramp. He also said he was off last night mechanically, like he was pulling across his body.

I think we found the reason Paxton keeps getting hurt. His mechanics still aren't settled...he's still getting fouled up with his motion and, when he does, not only do the results get worse, but, with his high-effort delivery, he is more likely to pull things...especially the oblique/pec area.


Outrageous stupidity leaving Moore out there to twist in the wind and blow the game...I know the pen is thin, but you've got to save the lead. Unbelievable stupidity of the highest [expletive] order.



His Diaz handling in the 9th was just as bad. After the first two walks you get someone up. Two hard hit outs later you hope he can get through it maybe, but once he walks Maybin to get to MICKEY MANTLE then you surely have to concede Diaz in no position to win this game and you get him the hell out of there.

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